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Electric boats of the future

Are electric boats greener? What will future inland waterway boats be like? Find out about electric boats of the future.

Electric boats

As with road vehicles, there are two basic systems: electric drive and hybrid drive.

Electric drive

An electric drive has the propellor driven by an electric motor that is powered from a battery. The battery may be charged from a variety of sources including a small diesel generator or a fuel cell. A boat will probably have a choice of several methods.

Hybrid drive

A hybrid drive has an electric motor, powered from a battery and an internal combustion engine that are both able to drive the propellor. The motor, driven by the engine, can also be used as a generator to charge the battery. The battery may also be charged from shore power or solar panels.

Greener boats for the future

Inland waterway boats of the future will likely be driven by an electric motor powered by batteries. They will be able to be charged by using both shore power and on-board solar panels.

Currently, batteries are only capable of propelling a boat for about two to three days, but developments are expected to lead this to double within a few years. Without this development, supercapacitors charged by fuel cells are likely to become the power source of choice.

Neither electricity nor hydrogen are truly ‘green’ at the moment, but this will need to be solved at a national level for all forms of transport.

New-build boats of the future

New-build boats of the future will most likely:

  • Be powered by an electric motor
  • Have a battery bank large enough for at least one day’s cruising
  • Charge the battery by shore connection and on-board solar cells
  • Have a fuel cell for on-board charging (if battery improvements do not happen)
  • Have a hydrogen tank to supply the fuel cell
  • Use an electronic management system

More about Greener boating

Download your free Greener Boating Guide

Want to make your boating more sustainable, but don’t know where to start? Download our Guide to Greener Boating – includes the latest on biofuels.